Every person has the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) located below the ears at the sides of the face. What we commonly call the jaw is used when we breathe, talk, and eat. And like other parts of the body, it can feel some pain, too.
Pain in the temporomandibular joint is also linked to headaches, including pain in the ears, the back of the neck, and the sides of the neck. Learn more about jaw pain and headaches when you continue reading.
What Is the Temporomandibular Joint?
Nerve pathways, called trigeminal and facial nerves, connect the jaw to other neck and head nerves. Of course, these nerves are part of the trigeminal system, which is associated with the head and face.
How do these nerves connect to other nerves? When it comes to the jaw, it is thought that the mandibular branch of the trigeminal nerve goes to the TMJ. It then goes to the trigeminal ganglion, and then to the trigeminal (chief sensory) nucleus.
This happens when the jaw is in pain. The trigeminal nucleus sends out pain signals to areas that are ipsilateral, or on the same side of the body. This is why neck and head pain are triggered, such as headaches.
What Are the Common Causes of Temporomandibular Joint Pain?
The most common cause of TMJ pain, or the pain in the temporomandibular joint, is bruxism, commonly known as teeth grinding. This restlessness or clicking in the jaw can be triggered by several factors, such as stress, depression, jaw clenching, or teeth clenching.
How Can You Prevent Temporomandibular Joint Pain?
If you’re experiencing TMJ or jaw pain, you may want to address it before it becomes chronic. Here are some ways you can do these things:
- Remember to relax your jaw when you’re stressed and looking to relieve your stress.
- Use over-the-counter pain relief to manage the pain.
- If you grind your teeth, you may want to see a dentist trained in oral rehabilitation and TMJ.
- Take a few minutes to relax your jaw by gently pressing the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Repeat this throughout the day.
What Are the Ways to Treat Temporomandibular Joint Pain?
For most people, doing the above-mentioned things will manage the pain and prevent it from worsening. However, if it’s chronic or if you’re experiencing pain in the TMJ and you’re having headaches or other pain in the head, you may want to see a dentist who has TMJ experience.
Treating TMJ requires both a dental and therapeutic approach. Because the temporomandibular joint and the jaw muscles are so interlinked, a dentist will treat it accordingly.
This involves muscle therapy, in addition to a splint. The splint will stabilize the jaw while the muscle starts to heal.
The dentist may also want you to visit a dental therapist. They can advise on how to care for your teeth and give you a home program for strengthening the muscles via muscle therapy.
Sometimes, a dentist may also recommend surgery. This is usually when medication and conservative treatments have failed.
If you’re suffering from headaches resulting from TMJ, it’s essential to seek treatment from a dentist who treats this condition. They can help you treat jaw pain, so you can avoid dealing with headaches and other discomforts.
Book an appointment at Sudbury Dental Arts and begin treatment for your constant jaw pain and headaches. As the leading family dentist in Sudbury, we can help you diagnose and treat TMJ problems. Call us today to schedule a TMJ treatment consultation.